Tag Archives: travel

The Kasbah Chronicles November 2015

Musings:

 Clkshp 4

Chef David Thorne of Elysian restaurant in Glendale, CA

THANKSGIVING at THE KASBAH:

In need of “comfort food” I broke my tradition of basting a turkey inside and out with PRESERVED LEMON PULP to prepare a TURKEY COUSCOUS from Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan Memories (page 221, CH 22). Couscous= a balm for the soul.

And then came Paris. We remained glued to the television, as was the rest of the world. To paraphrase my French friends and relatives: “We must go on as usual, or we allow THEM to win. “ The world’s response to the catastrophe reached San Diego, where Susan McBeth of Aventures by the Book (adventuresbythebook.com) put together a Je Suis Paris benefit event in barely 6 days, and raised over $5,000 for the Croix Rouge Française. Merci Susan, and merci, author Jen Coburn (www.jennifercoburn.com), for co-organizing.

In honor of the victims, hold on to your hankies and listen to this: http://www.lefigaro.fr/musique/2015/11/27/03006-20151127ARTFIG00251-hommage-national-natalie-dessay-fait-l-unanimite.php

     I got a break from mulling over current events with an invitation to “chat” at Kan Ya Ma Kan, a dinner organized by Clockshop (www.clockshop.org) to celebrate the food, culture, and music of Morocco’s Sephardic Jews. Chef David Thorne, who heads the adjoining Elysian restaurant (www.elysianla.com) shares the airy space with Clockshop in a former warehouse nestled among ancient buildings perched on the banks of the LA River in Glendale, CA. I licked my own chops with Chef David’s rendition of my Tagine of Duck with Prunes and Caramelized Persimmons in honey sauce!

News from Morocco: An ancient DATE crop is making a comeback:

Figuig: A troubled home for, AZIZA, Morocco’s rarest date variety.Very interesting paper written by a young intern at the High Atlas Foundation, an organization of Morocco Peace Corps returnees.

http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/

 Incroyable mais vrai! Morocco is thinking about BANNING the use of plastic shopping bags.

Anyone who has traveled in Morocco, or other developing countries (and, for that matter, parts of the California desert) bemoans the unsightly trash that makes these areas “bloom.” My husband and I refer to the fields littered with ubiquitous black plastic bags, “fields of flowers,” when we encounter them along Moroccan roads.

How ironic that this is a prevalent sight in countries that produce such wonderful artisanal straw baskets.

Irony 1: I have used the SAME Moroccan baskets for over 30 years!

Irony 2: WE end up purchasing these same imported straw goods at US farmer’s markets.

SACS PLASTIQUES – Interdiction par le parlement marocain

La Chambre des représentants a adopté à l’unanimité, le projet de loi n° 77-15 portant sur l’interdiction de la fabrication, l’importation, l’exportation, la commercialisation et l’utilisation des sacs en plastique.

MORE good news from Morocco:

It is among the safest countries to visit, says the British Foreign Office. Let’s keep our fingers and toes crossed.

Le Maroc parmi les pays les plus sûrs au monde, selon le Foreign Office. (“Morocco among the safest countries in the world,” according to the Foreign Office.) The British government encourages its citizens to visit.

“Le Maroc figure en bonne place dans le classement 2015 des pays les plus sûrs au monde établi par le Foreign Office, aux côtés de pays européens et d’Amérique du Nord, rapporte “Le360“. La Grande-Bretagne déconseille à ses citoyens le voyage dans pas moins de 60 pays, principalement ceux de la Région du Moyen-Orient et d’Afrique du Nord, dont la Tunisie frappée l’été dernier par une vague d’attentats terroristes . . . Seule exception de la Région MENA, le Maroc est classé par le Foreign-Office parmi les pays les plus sûrs au monde. «Toutes les régions du royaume sont sûres», assure le Foreign Office, conseillant les ressortissants britanniques de s’y rendre sans s’inquiéter le moins du monde. MarocZone

New FRANGLAIS word for you to ponder:

” le startuppeur de l’année” en Afrique et au Maroc . . . Les projets primés recevront le label Startuppeur de l’année 2015 . . .

Question: Are you acquainted with any startappeurs?

Summer updates and a trip to Catalina Island

Avalon-view-2

View from Mr Wrigley’s casino (THE Mr. Wrigley chewing-gum)

NO gambling allowed

“Only 26 miles across the sea” . . . but decades removed from the mainland. Even though we have lived in California since 1973, we had never been to Catalina! Rather than the classic “26 miles” I could imagine Alvin and the Chipmunks belting out “Won’t you take me to Funky town” as a more apt description. I took my husband to celebrate a momentous anniversary, and also to see if I would get seasick during the 90 mn crossing from Dana Point to Avalon. Success! I didn’t toss my cookies (or rather a rather so-so fish taco lunch from a restaurant in the Dana Point Harbor. Skip the downstairs terrace of Harpoon Henry’s!) The weather was glorious, the crossing smooth, and the boat flew across the waves towards Calatina.

Much to our pleasant surprise, we landed smack in the middle of a set for Grounghog Day, a combination of a small Mediterranean seaside village lightly touched with the colorized exoticism of a vintage postcard. The hotel only reinforced the impression of stepping back in time. We could see the Hotel MacRae’s bubblegum pink facade from the ferry landing. Up the staircase we went (no elevator) to the office set in a corner of the terrace. The establishment reminded us of old hotels in France and Spain, where you first climb upstairs to a “lobby”, and then up more stairs to your room. This hotel offers a great location and very comfortable rooms. Next to the entrance is a karaoke bar open half the night, so make sure you ask for a room at the back.

The quality of the food on the island turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as well. The menu and the décor of Blue Water Grill are equally appealing. We dined on the deck with the waves crashing under our feet the two nights we spent in Avalon. We walked along the harbor, past Mr. Wrigley’s (yes, THE chewing gum Wrigley) famed art deco casino (well worth the visit), towards the Descanso Beach Club. a private club open to the pubic. The menu needs some rethinking and the food is overpriced, but you can’t beat the location on a palm-shaded deck with steps leading to a pocket-sized beach. The wait-staff consisted of a group of young foreigners, here on a tourist visa for the summer.

No cars in Avalon! (some waiting 30 years apparently, to obtain a permit.) Private golf carts dart around the narrow streets lined with diminutive beach cottages, most of them vacation rentals. The main beach is nothing to write home about, but you can reach more remote harbors by boat. The drive up to the Airport in the Sky was memorable not only for the excellent guide (via the Catalina Island Company tours), but also for hairpin turns that reminded me of driving through the High Atlas Mountains. I still don’t understand how he navigated the extreme turns in a BUS! Even though I don’t suffer from vertigo, I had to refrain from looking down the cliff in a few cases.

48 hours later, home we went, rolling our suitcases down the main street towards the ferry terminal. We may return! We celebrated July 4th with  a Moroccan menu consisting of zahlouk eggplant salad, brochettes (kabobs) of chicken, lamb and beef liver (try it!) marinated in charmoula spices. Aren’t we citizens of the world?!

4th of Jul kabobs 2

Petites salades

After the fires/May 2014

The lingering smell of smoke from the terrible fires in San Marcos (about 7miles east of us) has evaporated.  The breeze swept away the film of burnt ash that covered our patio. What a sinking, heartsick feeling to stand on our rooftop terrace and view the macabre fireworks lighting up the string of nearby hills around Cal State San Marcos, about 7 miles away. The university was evacuated, and their commencement ceremonies put off for a week. Couple that with incessant TV coverage of the worst hit areas around us, and you get the idea: San Diego County suffered.

 

 The dramatic episode brought to mind our long ago honeymoon: I insisted on taking Owen to the Moroccan oasis of Ouarzazate (now Morocco’s “Hollywood”). It must have been at least 115 degrees in the (non-existent) shade. Not only did we battle burning “chergui” or “sirocco” winds similar to California’s Santa Anas, but in Morocco, they carried clouds of ravenous locusts. Ha! Memories!

Events like the fires help put things in perspective. I am always amazed at the equanimity of newly homeless homeowners. “We’re alive, our family is safe, and so are our animals. That’s what’s important. We will rebuild.”

 

Would I react the same way? I don’t know. One thing is for sure, I am REALLY going prepare my emergency suitcase, just in case. If you were told to evacuate NOW, are you prepared?  What would you put in the “grab and go” boxes before a hurried escape?

 

 A touch of spring lingers. A mockingbird wakes us up each morning with a concert of chirps, obsessed with its need to attract a mate. The bird, like homeowners with burnt out houses, take the long view. I will try that approach!

 

 

 

Mint Tea and Minarets finalist in the San Diego Book Awards

It's official!

Mint Tea and Minarets: Chronicles from the Kasbah is a finalist in the 2012 San Diego Book Awards. Please send good vibes my way on June 9th, the day the winner is announced!

http://www.sdbookawards.com/2012/05/03/2012-finalists

My latest book, a memoir of "my" Morocco with 34 luscious family recipes, took ten years to write. It will soon see the light as an ebook, Inch Allah! Keep checking this site for details.

Here is a little taste of Mint Tea and Minarets:

             “Behold, a singular structure soars above the banks of the Oum er-Rbia, Mother of Spring River, within the ramparts of the 16th century medina of Azemmour — Dar Zitoun, erstwhile “House of the Pasha.” Into her late father’s painstakingly restored riad, Moorish mansion, Kitty Morse, author of Mint Tea and Minarets, an expert on Moroccan cuisine, warmly coaxes you. Generations of cooks and centuries of celebration there sweeten the invitation. Dar Zitoun has many delicious stories to tell.

            An hour south of Kitty’s native Casablanca, scour the Azemmour souk for seasonal ingredients, then meet Dar Zitoun’s gifted cuisinier Bouchaib to concoct aromatic tagines. In the footfall of her father, she uncovers the provenance of her culinary passion: Dar Zitoun was an ancient cooking school.  Follow Kitty as she seeks out bibi beldi, free-range turkey, at a farm on the Doukkala plain and is instructed in falconry by Kwacem tribesmen, the only commoners authorized to capture and train the raptors. Frequent a Bedouin camel market, consult with a practitioner of native medicine, and hunt for the source of the Oum er-Rbia in the High Atlas Mountains.

             Having grown up in North Africa during the French Protectorate, a unique time in history, Kitty has a pied-noir’s rarified perspective. Fresh burdens as executor of her father’s estate help build an appetite, while each chapter divulges a recipe that matches the tale just told. Meanwhile, Morocco’s Byzantine legal system introduces an amusing cast of other-cultured characters in this window into the mosaic that characterizes the northwest corner of Africa, Al Mahgreb Al Aqsa, The Land Where the Sun Sets.”